Public services 'should share buildings to save costs'

Public services like police, health clinics, fire brigades and jobcentres should consider moving in with local councils to save money, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said today.

His comments came as he endorsed a new report suggesting local authorities could save £7 billion a year - the equivalent of £316 for every council tax payer - by rationalising their property portfolios, selling off offices and town halls and sharing buildings with other services.



The report by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum, chaired by Conservative MP Matthew Hancock, found that the biggest savings could be made "when all public services are provided from the same location", though it acknowledged that this could meet resistance from some bodies.



Speaking at the report's launch in the House of Commons, Mr Pickles said that putting all services in the same building would not only save money but make life easier for people looking for help. Voluntary organisations could also be housed alongside public services, to ensure that advice of all kinds was available.



"Sensible use of public money demands that we do start to share public buildings," said the Local Government Secretary.



"This is about ensuring that somebody wanting help, assistance and advice goes to one place. It doesn't matter whether it is the health service, the police, the district or county council, why should they have to take a basic lesson in civics to know where to go?



And he added: "The future lies with the public sector getting together - not just local government but the health service and the Department for Work and Pensions - to offer something better to the public."



Today's report, published after a six-month inquiry involving leaders of the public and private sectors, found that local authorities own some £250 billion worth of buildings.



This makes up around two-thirds of the state's total £370 billion property portfolio, which costs £25 billion a year to run.



Managing property effectively could cut the space needed by councils by 30%, leading to lower costs, lower carbon emissions and better services, said the report.



With councils facing 26% reductions in government funding over the next four years, local authorities are facing significant pressure to save money, requiring "innovative" use of their existing assets.



The report hailed the examples of Birmingham, which is planning to cut back from 55 to eight office buildings, and Suffolk, which has identified £1.6 million in reductions to property costs this year after a survey of all public buildings in the county.



Public sector buildings currently provide staff with an average of 14.5 square metres - well above the Government standard of 12 - the report found. And it said that local government stood to save up to £200 annually for every square metre reduction in space occupied.



The report recommended the creation of a central property unit in every local authority to tackle the inefficient use of space, and said other public and voluntary sector bodies should be invited to join councils in developing a common management solution to ensure the best use of property.



Mr Hancock said: "The best local authorities have reduced space by up to one third, and what really surprised me is that they all reported that when this happened, they felt it improved services.



"We estimate that the total savings potential if everybody adopted best practice is for savings of £7 billion - equivalent to £316 per council tax payer. I think that's a very significant saving and shows the importance of the sorts of technique contained in this report."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones